Shame

 

Shame

Written by Steve McQueen & Abi Morgan

Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt

Production Design by Judy Becker

Editing by Mike Cahill

Music by Harry Escott

Produced by Emile Sherman & Iain Canning

Directed by Steve McQueen

2011


Cast:

Michael Fassbender

Carey Mulligan

James Badge Dale

Nicole Beharie

Lucy Walters


Production Studio:

Theatrical: See-Saw Films

Video: Fox Searchlight


Rated: NC-17


Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature Size: ca. 32.63 GB

Bit Rate: High (35-40 Mbps)

Runtime: 101 minutes

Region:


Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1


Subtitles:

English SDH & Spanish


Extras:

• Focus on Michael Fassbender (3:00)

• Director Steve McQueen (3:10)

• The Story of Shame (3:15)

• A Shared Vision (2:35)

• Fox Movie Channel Presents . . . in SD (5:15)

• DVD + Digital Copy


Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case w/ slipcover

BRD + DVD/Digital Copy

Street Date: April 17, 2012



Critical Response:

Chicago Sun-Times:

There's a close-up in "Shame" of Michael Fassbender's face showing pain, grief and anger. His character, Brandon, is having an orgasm. For the movie's writer-director, Steve McQueen, that could be the film's master shot. There is no concern about the movement of Brandon's lower body. No concern about his partner. The close-up limits our view to his suffering. He is enduring a sexual function that has long since stopped giving him any pleasure and is self-abuse in the most profound way. . .

"Shame" contains unblinking truth. I have no doubt it depicts behavior that can be accurately called "sex addiction." The film suggests no help for Brandon, although toward the end, he moves somewhat in the direction of being able to care for another human being. For him, that involves being able to care for himself, despite the truth that he feels unworthy to be known. This is a great act of filmmaking and acting. I don't believe I would be able to see it twice. - Roger Ebert


    


Rolling Stone:

Michael Fassbender delivers a bold and brilliantly immersive performance as a sex addict in Shame. He is so raw and riveting you won't be able to take your eyes off him. The thing is, you may want to. Shame, as written and directed by the British conceptual artist Steve McQueen – who teamed triumphantly with Fassbender in 2008's Irish drama Hunger – is thoroughly drained of eroticism. Despite the NC-rating and copious nude scenes, the movie chills you to the bone. As it should. Fassbender's character, Brandon, is a slave to his addiction. He'll have sex with anyone, anywhere. The computer in his Manhattan office has gone viral with porn. When Brandon can't find someone to screw, he hires a hooker, tries a gay bar, or just jerks off – mechanically, no heat.  Brandon keeps his apartment sterile. The warmth of human connection is absent from it. That is, until he gets a visit from Sissy (Carey Mulligan), his younger sister, a club singer in from Los Angeles. Sissy is needy, insistent. When she asks to stay with him, Brandon is horrified. Whatever their family history (incest? abuse?) neither Brandon nor Sissy can deal with it. Mulligan is in every way sensational. McQueen's camera holds her in relentless closeup as she sings "New York, New York" with an aching slowness that defies the snappy essence of the tune but speaks volumes about the pain she's endured. In a coup de cinema, Mulligan makes that one number into a movie all its own. Shame is too blistering and brutal to cozy up to. But Fassbender and Mulligan are dynamite. And McQueen is a born provocateur. There's no easy way to shake off Shame. It gets in your head. - Peter Travers


    


And for an entirely contrary view of the film:


Slant Magazine:

Shame articulates a shallow, even mundane, understanding of an uninteresting man's sex addiction—in a vibrant city rendered dull and anonymous. This self-serious elegy to a corporate drone's debauchery begins like it ends, with Brandon (Michael Fassbender) debonairly sniffing for pussy on the subway; he misses out, as the target of his radioactive gaze doesn't share the courage of his convictions, but Married Subway Girl's loss is Every Other Woman In New York City's gain. As in the equally dour Hunger, his last tony collaboration with director Steve McQueen, Fassbender is a man trapped inside the prison of his own body, though this time the jailer and the prisoner would appear to be one and the same. - Ed Gonzalez


    


LensView

The Movie: 8

I doubt there’s a review out there that doesn’t mention “sexual addiction” when talking about this movie, yet the subject is never named in the film. How very unlike movies that focus on alcohol or drug addiction, especially groundbreaking classics like The Lost Weekend, Come Back Little Sheba, Days of Wine and Roses, and The Man with the Golden Arm. Why is that, I wonder? 

 

Perhaps the most pertinent reason, besides the deliberate decision by the screenwriters to place the focus on character rather than social pathology is that “sexual addiction” is not really an addiction, not in the same way as we are addicted to alcohol, tobacco, narcotics and coffee.  Unlike these addictions, one does not develop a sexual physiologic craving for the experience – though it may feel that way – nor is it the case that the more one has of it the more one needs, though again, there is a urgent, compulsive psychological component that makes one feel that no amount of sex can assuage the want of it.  Exhaustion is the only safeguard.  More likely there are other mechanisms (disease and assault, for example) that put an end to matters, though they are only temporary fixes.


    

 

In some ways, sexual addiction is like an addiction to gambling.  Both are constructs rather than diseases; they are metaphors, however much they render the victim helpless and devastated.  In many cases, the injury is felt by family and friends, which is why, sooner or later, such people become isolative, particularly in the case of sexual addicts.  Like homosexuals back in the day, they lead double lives – not that homosexuals are addicts.  And, as with addictions to narcotics, alcohol and gambling, there is a powerful shameful component to the syndrome that takes hold like a virus, and is even more difficult to treat.

 

Brandon (Fassbender), and others like him, are engaged in the most physically involving of all addictions, physiological or social, yet it is less obvious to the “victim” and those they have sex with as well as friends and family.  It is a behavior more secret, more protected by all concerned than any other addiction.


    

 

So much for the condition, what about the movie?  One thing we might notice right off is the extent to which so many people in the film – mostly women, but men, too, play along with or into Brandon’s lifestyle.  The people in McQueen’s movie are either sexually hungry or on pause – the latter simply going through the motions of living their lives.  It is as if only those who are actively pursuing sex have any interest for him.  But perhaps, this is just McQueen’s way of describing the territory that his subject inhabits. 

 

Take, for example, the attractive woman on the subway whose presence and response to Brandon bookends the film.  At first, it appears that she is hypnotized by Brandon’s unflinching gaze.  There is an erotic dimension to her response (not to his, we observe) that not only suggests foreplay, it is foreplay.  The fact that she disappears after they exit the train indicates to us (to me, anyhow) that she got all she wanted.  She is victim first, if at all, and exploiter later.  She knows exactly what she’s doing.  Brandon only thinks he does, even if he notices the color of her eyes while your average man doesn’t.


    

 

The blonde on the train is the only character that interests me besides Brandon and his sister.  The two other supporting characters are two-dimensional in comparison to the two principals.  Brandon’s boss and friend of sorts, played by James Badge Dale, is a caricature of a sex-obsessed male. David is not nearly as believable as Brandon, which is odd considering that there must be many more times his type than Brandon’s floating about.  I suppose David does serve the purpose of comic relief, however, though I found his shtick growing tiresome quickly. 

 

Marianne, played by Nicole Beharie, knows what she wants and is willing to engage long enough to find it.  She even gave marriage a whirl for a few minutes.  Marianne keeps Brandon at arm’s length and can’t get hurt because she both sees what is across the table from her and because she has some decency.  Not many people of her age have both going for them – evidently, this is what stops Brandon before he can finish her off.  The thing that makes her less interesting to me is that she is so obviously placed here for us to see what makes Brandon tick and what happens when he tries to go straight, so to speak, when confronted by someone so unlike himself.  It’s Brandon’s response to her, not so much hers to his, that we focus on.


    

 

Which leaves Sissy, Brandon’s sister, in her way as much emotionally and behaviorally messed up as he is.  Sissy knows she is needy, which should give her a leg up.  Unfortunately she is a classic Borderline Personality that likes to play with razors, a very unhealthy practice that can lead one to wake up dead one day.  A fine performance by Carey Mulligan who lets us see and feel the inverse of Fassbender’s Brandon. 

 

Steve McQueen – in case you’re wondering, does not have blue eyes – alternates long, static takes, with frantic, helter-skelter montages: control and loss of same.  Clever.  I haven’t yet decided what it means that Brandon listens only to LPs, not CDs, which seems at odds with the sterility of his apartment, nor why the music track alternates a mood reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s Mulholland Dr. with the keyboard music of J.S. Bach, with a time out for a complete knock-your-socks-off rendering of the Kander & Ebb perennial “New York, New York” by Carey Mulligan.  It all works.  I just don’t know why.


    


Image: 9/9

Fox’s high-definition presentation of Shame transfers the movie at what may be the highest bit rate of any feature film thus far, cruising at about 38 Mbps with frequent forays above 40.  Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt frequent heavy use of green-blue filtration is well translated by Fox without its going flat as it might on DVD.  Shame is not a movie you expect to find every skin pore and hair strand decisively delineated, instead the result is a convincing, if subtly manipulated filmlike representation of its 35-mm origins.  A perfect source print with nary a trace of enhancement or other distracting transfer artifacts.


Audio: 10/9

The image is good, but the audio, subtle as it most often is, goes one better.  The dynamic range is huge, from whispers, to quiet tappings, to breathless singing, to that amplified boom we get in sports bars, to the myriads of layers of conversation through which the dialogue of the principals can be heard.  Near the end of the film Brandon is nearly overcome by the sound of an approaching subway, once a friendly space for his sexual escapades, it is now threatening to drown him, as it will likely be for you.


    


Extras: 3

Despite appearances, there is little very little of substance here.  Of the roughly seventeen minutes worth of features, half that time is filled with clips from the movie and the remainder divided between repetitious exposition and observations worth our interest.  Moreover, the titles of two of these segments - “Focus on Michael Fassbender” and “Director Steve McQueen” - are completely misleading, as they are merely additional summaries of character and story.  There are so many aspects of production, direction and acting left untouched it would be whipping a dead horse to mention them all.

Recommendation: 8

Despite the cursory nature of the extra features on the one hand and the challenging subject matter, this is a highly recommendable release on all other grounds: the image and audio quality are first rate; and, of course, performances by Fassbender and Mulligan are brilliant.


    



Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

April 15, 2012


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